Todd's generosity to Barnhart insults all Kentuckians
The very first thing I saw when I picked up the Feb.10 paper were the faces of University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. and his apparent golden boy, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. As they used to say in the country, they were "grinning like possums."
Instead of the ear-to-ear grins, they should have been hiding their faces in shame.
It's apparent that, in his waning days as president, Todd was doing nothing more than setting Barnhart up for life with a huge salary raise of $125,000 on top of the $475,000 he already makes, plus all the perks that come with his job. I hope he'll now be able to somehow squeak by on what he makes.
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I find it a slap in the face to the faculty, staff, students and, yes, even to the people of Kentucky to pull a trick of this sort, when for the last few years, according to Todd, there just wasn't enough money to give the average UK employee a measly raise.
This is cronyism and the "good ol' boy" thing at it's worst.
How either can face the students, faculty, staff and general public with a straight face is beyond my comprehension.
I hope Barnhart can keep from cutting himself as he grins while shaving and thinking about that $125,000 raise.
To Todd, I can only say: Good riddance. He should have been gone long ago.
Wrong tax models
Lately, policy-makers point to Tennessee, for its supposed pro-business tax climate, and Georgia, for its tax reform commission, as places Kentucky should emulate.
Georgia's commission called for expanding the sales tax to include services. However, the commission also recommends taxing groceries. This will increase taxes for those earning between $28,000 and $75,000 a year, and will dramatically lower taxes for those making more than $389,000, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
Tennessee has no income tax but levies an average sales tax of 9.4 percent on all purchases. In addition to requiring middle-income earners to pay a larger portion of their income than the wealthiest, the tax makes the state vulnerable to economic downturns.
Neither Georgia nor Tennessee offer perfect examples of where Kentucky should turn for models of tax reform. Calling for tax reform is not a job of a weak-hearted leader. Reps. Bill Farmer and Jim Wayne and Senate President David Williams are to be commended for introducing legislation calling for comprehensive tax reform.
Wayne and Farmer have both addressed the need to extend the sales tax to certain services in an effort to reflect our economy's shift in consumption from goods to services. Wayne goes one step further by introducing a state earned income tax credit.
We recognize the importance of the business community in securing economic vitality. However, amid the flurry of ideas and posturing tossed around the important discussion of tax reform, we hope legislators also will take into account the well-being of children and families — the heart and soul of Kentucky.
Terry I. Brooks
Executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
How far for business?
I want to thank the Herald-Leader for the marvelous Jan. 23 editorial "Strip mining will destroy historic towns." I grew up in Lynch at the foot of Black Mountain. It was and is an amazing place.
Regarding the latest attempt to strip mine Black Mountain, I would like to ask a simple question of our elected leaders: To what degree are you willing to go to allow corporations to enhance the old bottom line?
Suppose, for example, there were an effort to repeal child labor laws in an effort to provide "job opportunities" for our children in Kentucky. Would that be too far?
What if there were a proposal to reconstitute slavery? Remember, after the initial cost, slave labor is definitely management-friendly. Is that too far to go?
If the readers of the Herald-Leader think these questions are ludicrous, consider this: How many of us would have ever dreamed corporations would be permitted to literally blow the tops off of the beautiful Appalachian mountains and, in the process, destroy perhaps the cleanest and purest drinking water on Earth? Just asking.
Walk where Clay walked
The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation noted the rather startling comments by Sen. Rand Paul regarding Henry Clay and a response written by Dana Milbank of The Washington Post that appeared Feb. 6 in the Herald-Leader. We are pleased with the defense of the Great Compromiser that was offered.
History shows that Clay's leadership and compromise ability steered the course of our nation in a positive direction. It is our mission to preserve the life and work of Clay, and we offer such interpretation six days a week, March 1 through Dec. 31.
Interpreting a legacy as immense and significant as Clay's is a challenge.
As Milbank noted, Clay inspired the man who would get our nation through its darkest hour, Abraham Lincoln. We do not shy away from Clay's complicated stance on the issue of slavery.
In fact, we offer an opportunity to explore Clay as a slave owner and emancipationist.
This year, we will take a bold step when we open an exhibit in May that will explore Clay's views on Native Americans which, like those on slavery, are troubling and yet inspiring.
We hope the recent commentary will stir interest in Kentuckians and all Americans to read Robert Remini's At the Edge of the Precipice and The Essential American by David and Jeanne Heidler.
There is no better place to learn about Clay's legacy than at his own home, Ashland. Please visit the Henry Clay Estate, to learn why we work to preserve the rich history of a great American.
President, Henry Clay Memorial Foundation
Real test of education
My congratulations to the Herald-Leader for publishing professor Ben Hawkins' Feb. 6 column and to Hawkins for submitting it. In it, he pictures the dilemma facing the person who becomes the next superintendent of Fayette County schools.
That person will face enormous pressure to improve test scores of students on standardized tests, but that pressure will put him or her at odds with the wishes of many students and teachers.
Parents and adults outside the school system too easily dismiss those wishes with the excuse that students and teachers simply seek to get out from doing the work of learning and teaching.
That attitude strikes me as both undemocratic and defeatist. It amounts to the belief that society must force students to learn and teachers to teach. Such an attitude cannot but encounter resistance from those undergoing the pressure to perform to meet others' expectations.
If the slogan, "It's about kids" means anything, it means that schooling should focus on the development of young people as individuals rather than expecting them to compete with their peers to show mastery of required knowledge.
Professor emeritus, University of Kentucky College of Education
Drug profits or people?
The war on drugs is raging (again); the evidence is clear and convincing (again); Kentucky finds itself leading the nation in abuse of the current drug of choice (again).
It's time to pass legislation to restrict the availability of pseudoephedrine products — the key precursor in the manufacture of meth — from the possession of the smurfs, addicts and cookers.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Senate President David Williams, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Sen. Tom Jensen and Rep. Linda Belcher — three Republicans and two Democrats — testified in a refreshingly bipartisan way for the bill's passage.
Their testimony — supported by invaluable information collected on the battlefields of this war by Operation Unite, Kentucky State Police and other law-enforcement agencies — gave clear and convincing evidence of the need to limit access to products that have led to 1,080 meth-lab incidents during 2010.
The passage of Senate Bill 45/House Bill 285 will simply add another tool in the tool box for this ongoing battle.
Requiring a prescription for only 15 of 137 cold medications on the market will place these most-abused drugs on the KASPER tracking system.
If the General Assembly does not act now, by the 2012 session, we would have continued to promote pain, suffering, crime, child abuse and death of epidemic proportions.
Is our policy going to promote the profits of pharmaceutical companies or protect the people of Kentucky?
Jack L. Coleman
Former state representative
U.S. lags in health care
The letter writer who said health care is not a basic right broke my heart.
I don't know what he considers to be a "right" but how can "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" rest on anything more basic than an equal opportunity to good health? All pursuits more or less depend on good health.
Life is uncertain, but we, as a society, strive to level the playing field and provide basic opportunities to those who otherwise would not have them.
Education is one way to provide those opportunities. Health care is another.
All societies take care of the wealthy. That's the easy part. To me, the best judge of a country is how it treats its poor and infirm, the "least of us".
For some reason, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that has not found a way to provide basic continual health care to all its citizens. Why?
The writer asserts that health care is "but an extension of personal responsibility."
But if one is chronically ill without access to the continuous health care he needs to function, how exactly is he to fulfill his "personal responsibility"?
The answer is, of course, he can't. Looking at it selfishly, as I assume this writer is, it's in all of our interests to keep as many Americans as possible functioning and paying taxes. That means they need to be healthy.
Travesty of a lawsuit
After reading actress Suzanne Somer's Feb. 6 letter, I feel it necessary to comment. As a lawyer with 45 years of business experience, the most recent lawsuit against Somers was the most unfounded litigation I've ever witnessed.
The trial was thrown out as the judge declared that, based on the evidence, there was no legal issue for the jury to decide. He stated it was only the second case in his career on the bench in which he had made such a ruling.
It was nothing more than an attempt to exploit a public figure.
The untimely lawsuit was filed a year and a half after Suzanne's Kitchen was discontinued, along with similar chains that also experienced a limited market.
The unfounded legal action created a public spectacle of crossfire, causing unnecessary animosity among the business partners, along with an estimated cost of over $200,000 in legal expenses.
I've franchised over 4,000 restaurants and have never had to litigate a single issue in court. Early on, I informed the attorney there was no evidence for Somers' litigation.
Attorneys are under oath to be guardians of justice. When there is abuse, they should be held accountable. The plaintiff's law firm carries a proud name.
Hopefully, in the future they'll be more concerned about accepting only cases based on legal merit.
John Y. Brown, Jr.
Higher purpose lost?
I am afraid many of us have given priority to patriotism over people.
Is it too much to consider that maybe we have focused so much on preserving the idea of America we have begun to forget the faces of America?
Perhaps we are too busy being American and not busy enough being citizens. And citizens take pride in the things that make us who we are and if "who we are" is based on an anthem then who are we?
In the "home of the brave," I ask what is braver: staring into the face of a singer who messed up a line of our national anthem or staring into the face of injustice and doing something about it.
Reagan had vision
Joel Pett's cynical swipe at former President Ronald Reagan (during his 100th birthday celebration) was not surprising. And typical of his ultra-liberal leaning, the crude frames of Reagan being mythologized were nothing more than an attempt to ridicule Reagan and those who admire him.
Most of us recognize Reagan was far from perfect, but his vision for America and his firm commitment to our Constitution via less intrusive government will always have our respect and gratitude, especially in light of the current "Obamacare" debacle.
And, in regard to the deification of Charles Darwin and the ridicule of the Creation Museum scientists, I will say this: In achieving a doctorate from the University of Houston, I took a slew of high-level biology and chemistry classes, have read two books on Darwin and looked intently at the theory of evolution.
It takes a greater leap of faith to swallow the bulk of Darwin's treatise than to believe there is a God who created this Earth and the amazing intricacies of, say, the human eye.
John D. Mackey
UK's 'Porgy and Bess' earns kudos all around
I want to commend the fine coverage of the production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess performed over the past two weekends. I fear that without the various articles on different elements coming together in this production, many might have missed this once in a lifetime experience to see the Opera Theatre rise to a new level of professionalism.
The collaboration of the new technology developed at the University of Kentucky's Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments and our crown jewel of the fine arts program, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, produced a magnificent experience for all those who ventured out in the cold — and there were more than 6,500 attendees.
The music is familiar to most theatergoers, but to see and hear our students, members of the American Spiritual Ensemble and students from Kentucky State University Chorus perform was truly inspirational. Both Angelique Clay, a UK assistant professor of music as Bess, and at the final performance, Angela Brown as Bess, who is recognized as the great new Aida, were a warming tonic.
This also afforded many a chance to hear the great sound of our student orchestra, the UK Symphony Orchestra. Their professionalism is right up there with that of the opera company.
I must mention the backbone of this program, Everett McCorvey, for without his talent, vision and determination this would not have been possible. Again, a hearty thank you for your great coverage of this program — it was a fine service to all Lexingtonians.
President, Lexington Opera Society